No Quesada? No problem -- creator Brian Michael Bendis, wielding a plate full of sandwiches (cribbed from Todd McFarlane, who left them from his panel, which led Bendis to say "We didn't get sandwiches!"), took the stage of Wizard World Chicago's Steve Gerber Room with Marvel's Tom Brevoort, Jim McCann, C.B. Cebulski and artist Alex Maleev, to discuss ... what exactly would he discuss?
"We have announcements of many shapes and sizes," Bendis said. "Joe [Quesada] could not be here, so I'm here to do the Joe shtick." He also noted that McCann had chosen to dress like Luke from "Gilmore Girls."
This prompted McCann to show slides of a thinner Bendis in a striped shirt ... next to a photo of the Muppet Ernie in a similar shirt.
"I hate you," Bendis said simply.
The first new announcement was an Illuminati-styled panel from "New Avengers" #43 from the new art team of Billy Tan and Matt Banning, who's exclusive to Marvel. Preview art was shown from Khoi Pham's "Mighty Avengers" #16 as well.
Bendis announced that "Fortune and Glory" will be released as a full color hardback in December on Marvel's Icon imprint. "I'm not coloring 'Jinx' and 'Goldfish,' so don't ask me," Bendis said. He also said, "The week after Secret Invasion will be the ongoing 'Spider-Woman' series written by me and drawn by Alex Maleev. This is our first ongoing since 'Daredevil.'"
The question-and-answer round launched with a free sandwich for everybody who asked a question Bendis liked.
"The studio wasn't prepared for me to announce the 'Powers' TV show, with me writing the pilot. But imagine how cool it would be if I announced that! You didn't hear it from me."
McCann and Cebulski talked briefly about some growth in the industry, in terms of movies drawing attention to the product. "We're not in any danger of having a 'Crisis' any time soon!" Cebulski quipped. McCann also advised pull boxes and preordering, as well as diversifying tastes.
"There's so many ways for readers to communicate to creators, that it's not as special," Bendis noted about the death of letter columns in comics. "I think it's cool to do them if there's something to say. People paid a lot of money for this comic, so even a letter column should be entertaining. Most of the time, I'd rather have story and art."
"So much of it is individual choice," Brevoort said, noting the "Spider-Man" and "She-Hulk" lettercols. "Part of the reason is just financial," Cebulski added. "Some of the space for letters pages is being sold for advertising."
"Have you ever written Geoff Johns a letter?" McCann asked of Bendis.
"I touched him on the floor yesterday," Bendis replied.
"So that's a restraining order?" McCann asked.
The Powers Encyclopedia is in the "final throes" of production, it's all drawn and written already and should be announced soon.
"Jinx" and "Goldfish?" Bendis had no plans for them in specific, but does plan to do new creator owned stuff.
"Lateness is a problem across the industry," Cebulski said. "Sometimes life just gets in the way. We'd rather see the creative team that's on the book. We don't like late shipping but sometimes we have to accept that sometimes the company is better served waiting for the artist to finish."
Bendis reaffirmed his affection for the Ultimate line. "You'll have to rip 'Ultimate Spider-Man' from my cold, dead hands." Cebulski plugged the dates for the special events. "I'm not done. I truly love him and I think there's something very cathartic for me to pick at my high school wounds and spill them out on the page for you. I love the book. It's not gonna be for a while. Sorry to Brian Reed and Robert Kirkman, waiting for their turns ..."
"Why don't you die?" Brian Reed shouted from the front row of the crowd, to which a fan repsonded, "You first!"
Maleev promised that he wouldn't be late with "Spider-Woman" before excusing himself to go do sketches. "I've never been late," he said.
McCann was asked if he'd seen the "Gilmore Girls" season finale, and he noted he had three discs left and had remained spoiler free thus far. "'Soap' is next for me!" he added.
What dream project would Bendis do if he could? "I've been very lucky, a lot of dream projects are happening right now. I have an open invitation at Icon. Years before I got 'Ultimate Spider-Man,' I got offered a 'Spider-Woman' series with Rick Mays, and it hurt. A lot of them are happening right now. Would it kill Marvel to offer me to draw something? But it's not happening." He also said, "Comics are cooler," when referring to his HBO deal and his Fox movie and even having Sam Jackson say something he wrote.
"Were you Ben Atkinson's roommate in college?" a fan asked.
"Ben Atkinson lied to you," Bendis said. "He was living with a girl."
"Your mom doesn't count!" McCann zinged.
The missing part of Michigan will be explained in "Wolverine," but Bendis said, "A Skrull ate it!"
Praise was given to Jonathan Hickman, and Bendis talked about how Hickman sent 15 cover designs to Bendis shortly after getting the job. Bendis also noted that Michael Golden is "my favorite comic book artist," but that he can't do a monthly series.
A fan asked, "Is there any connection between the phrase 'he loves you' and the Skrull Beatles?"
"Go sit down," Bendis admonished. He later revealed issue #6 will show who "he" is in explicit detail.
Bendis promised that Ultimate Spider-Woman will be back this year and "I promise you maybe the most awkward thing you've ever seen."
There will not be an "Ultimate Spider-Man 2" game -- which Brian Reed wrote -- but Bendis took the story and called it "Death of a Goblin" in the series. "I don't throw anything away!" he smiled.
When a fan quoted Bendis not liking Venom for overexposure and then demanding an opinion on Wolverine, the writer replied, "Wolverine bought my bicycle, paid for my kids college fund ... I like the chemistry in 'Avengers,' he's like ... a hero for us. This is our generation. No sandwich, I don't like it."
Cebulski confirmed that the creative team would change on "Marvel Zombies 3," with Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker stepping in to bring the Zombies closer to the 616 universe. An image was shown with Aaron Stack and Jacosta.
McCann noted that Stephen Colbert's presidential campaign in the Marvel Universe would continue, with blogs by a fictional writer on Comedy Central's website and more to come in a comic almost every week.
A question was asked about some unusual comments that had been made by Mark Millar claiming that Stan Lee's talent was due to him secretly being Scottish. "To be writer in this industry, you have to be circumcised," Bendis said. "That's why Mark [Millar] can't hold down a book for more than six issues, it's foreskin related." He then circumcised a pickle (by splitting it in half) for the next fan's question, where Bendis noted he might write the "Daredevil eating a sandwich" issue "on my way out the door, back to McDonald's ..."
A disgruntled fan asked about why he can't find many issues. "The days of 'we only print exactly to order' are over," McCann said. "As soon as Bill left. Talk to your retailer, tell them you want that book and they will hold it for you."
"That 'no print' quote is from two publishers ago," Bendis added.
"We printed lots of sandwiches," McCann joked.
A fan asked what led Bendis to comics. "You know that feeling you get when you read an awesome comic book?" he asked. "I wanted to give that feeling to people. I was nine, it was a George Perez comic book. I flipped to the opening to see who made me feel that awesome. When you can do that, it is 50 times better than that feeling. It was a good thing to chase."
What would the panelists erase from history? "Xorn," Bendis said. "There's a maniac on the MySpace page who posts it all the time."
"In the comic book community, I would erase the word 'meh,'" McCann said. "If you don't like something, tell us why."
How do alternate universes get their number? "The handbook guys come up with it," Brevoort said. "They have a complicated code that means a lot to them and nothing to anybody else."
"Rocket Raccoon, woo!" Cebulski said to a fan who praised Marvel's spaceborne adventures.
Who created the new Avengers idea? Bendis claimed he devised it first and then Millar said it "with his Irish brogue or whatever" and they went for it. "I'm from Cleveland, and they didn't hear me. He said that when he was a wee lad growing up in Scotland, he'd buy JLA because it had all the heroes and he's a cheap bastard. He was dancing around and I said, 'You already screwed up 'Ultimates,' get off of it! I may have said under my breath, 'if you want it to ship, you'll give it to me!' It was like the Skrull thing, it all came to be so clearly."
The panel mostly refused to answer a question about which Marvel character they'd want to "make sweet love to," but Cebulski admitted, "I'll sleep with anybody!"
Some "Battlestar" blather started, and Bendis revealed he's eight episodes behind. He then announced "Daredevil: End of Days" with David Mack, Bill Sienkiewicz and it'll be out by the end of the year.
The panel closed with another look at Michael Turner's work in memoriam. His last covers and work were for Marvel, including "Ultimate Origins."
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